An interesting piece pouring scorn on the “recycling” fetishists.

I don’t know whether this is the best application of Austrian analysis to a problem for the following reasons:

1. As Michael Rowbotham points out, the current monetary system pushes us towards debt-based overconsumption.  Gold would reverse this process and reward savings to a much greater degree.  So the real concern is that the whole monetary system is pushing us towards unsustainable overconsumption – something both Mises and Rothbard would have seen had they been alive.  Their PRINCIPAL concern was the monetary system skewing incentives and creating malinvestments.  This is what Austrians should be worrying about.  Not trashing recycling.

2.  Perhaps I’m a soft Austrian, but there are externalities which are not “endogenised” in the price system currently.  The full long-term polluting effects of oil production, of cyanide-based and mercury-based gold production, of coal mining… all of these have externalities in the form of pollution of river systems and the air which are not captured by the price system because no one owns these rights.  So I do believe we may not be appropriately pricing inputs for the long-term, which means that recycling may make more sense than this “Austrian” believes.

It’s funny that in the old days when there was more stable money, there was actually more recycling.  I still remember glass bottles of milk being picked up in country towns in Australia each day for recycling.  I still remember aluminium cans being collected for their recycling value.  I still remember “stuff” being re-used all over the house by my grandmother.  What’s changed?  The cost of these “throw away” items relative to our income has gone down, but the cost of housing relative to our income has gone up.  Massively.  So we worry about our mortgages and our jobs – but not about our savings or the milk bottles.

Return to gold and yet another problem would be addressed – that of pointless debt-based over-consumption.  The cost of housing relative to our income would go down.  The cost of “throw away” items relative our income would go up.  And so we’d throw away less.


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  1. December 5, 2009 at 7:42 am

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